My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared to blame the Newtown massacre at least partly on the secularization of schools.
December 18th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - There are a lot of things I am sick of hearing after massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Here are six of them:

1. “It was God’s will.”

There may or may not be a God, but if there is, I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around raising up killers, plying them with semiautomatic weapons, goading them to target practice, encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming 6- and 7-year-old children. Much better to say there is no God or, as Abraham Lincoln did, “The Almighty has his own purposes,” than to flatter ourselves with knowing what those purposes are.

2. “Jesus called the children home.”

I don’t want to hear that Jesus needed 20 more kids in heaven on Friday - that Madeleine Hsu (age 6) or Daniel Barden (age 7) were slain because Jesus couldn't wait to see them join his heavenly choir. Even the most fervent Christians I know want to live out their lives on Earth before going “home” to “glory.” The Hebrew Bible patriarchs rightly wanted long lives. Moses lived to be 120. Abraham was 175 when he died. Madeleine and Daniel deserved more than 6 or 7 years.

3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”

In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death. Death is tragic, and deaths such as these are unspeakably so. So now is the time for grief, not for pat answers to piercing questions. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” says the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and now is not a time for laughing or dancing or talk of children raised from the dead.

4. “This was God’s judgment.”

After every hurricane or earthquake, someone steps up to a mic to say that “this was God’s judgment” on New Orleans for being too gay or the United States for being too secular. I’m not sure what judgment of God would provoke the killing of 27 innocent women and children, but I certainly don’t want to entertain any theorizing on the question right now. Let’s leave God’s judgment out of this one, OK? Especially if we want to continue to believe God's judgments are "true and righteous altogether" (Psalms 19:9).

5. “This happened because America is too secular.”

Unlike those of us who are shaking their heads trying to figure out what transpired in Newtown, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical icon, apparently has it all figured out. We don’t need fewer guns in the hands of killers, he said Friday on Fox News, we need more God in our public schools.

“Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability,” Huckabee said in an astonishing flight of theological and sociological fancy.

Just keep plying people like the killer with Glocks and Sig Sauers. As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away. The logic here is convoluted to the point of absent, leaving me wondering whether what passes for "leadership" in America can sink any lower.

6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. The logical fallacy here is imagining that people are killed either by people or by guns. Come again? Obviously, guns do not kill people on their own. But people do not shoot bullets into people without guns. At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people. This is a fact. To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting.

The question now is: Are those of us who have not yet been killed by guns going to allow these massacres to continue unimpeded? Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? I have read the Second Amendment, and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket? Do I really have the right to bear a nuclear weapon? Or a rocket-propelled grenade? Then why in God’s name would any U.S. civilian have the right (or the need) to bear a .223-caliber assault rifle made by Bushmaster?

If you believe in a God who is all powerful and all good, then covering up for the Almighty at a time like this is in my view deeply unfaithful. Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming. To do anything else is in my view to diminish the idea of God, and to cheapen faith in the process.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • God • Mike Huckabee • United States • Violence

soundoff (5,447 Responses)
  1. stopcnnlies

    The second amendment confirmed the basic human right to bear arms, without government infringement, it did not specify a technology freeze at the time it was written.

    Despite the propaganda being spread by CNN you cannot trade your freedom for safety. When guns were banned in Chicago the politicians promised to make the city safe it has not. Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, applying them nationwide will make no one safer except criminals an murderers.

    January 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  2. davidc

    Stupid, stupid, stupid !!!

    January 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  3. Leftcoastrocky

    Excellent, excellent, excellent

    January 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  4. Uniquitous

    TO THE AUTHOR= " I have read the Second Amendment, and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket? Do I really have the right to bear a nuclear weapon? Or a rocket-propelled grenade? Then why in God’s name would any U.S. civilian have the right (or the need) to bear a .223-caliber assault rifle made by Bushmaster?"
    Where did you read it was limited to a musket? I do not see that. In fact, reading through the mountains of information that followed the signing up to the ratification it is clear that the constructors of the amendment intended for you to have ALL those things. They had just overcome tyranny of an oppressive govt, they were looking to ensure it was never allowed to happen again. How do you do that other than equip the citizens to ensure they do not become subjects. You mention those items we are not allowed to have already. That is because this right given to us by our Creator has been slowly chiseled away over the decades by a govt that would erode our liberties for the sake of "protecting" citizens. How much further will Americans let them go? Will you only speak when they decide you do not have the right to speak either?

    January 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  5. patrick kanaley

    What God is really saying to people is that we as human beings have become numb to the feelings of our fellow brothers and sisters by the empty shells that we have become. We have lost the feelings of being humble / fearless of the law/ fearless of our parents/ teachers. morally empty shells, No more feelings of others, its become What feels good for me and the hell with everyone else. Where TV is all about what kind of reality show can out do the other, WHATS next A REALITY SHOW ABOUT A REAL LIFE MURDER. WHERE WE SET A HUMAN FREE AND TEAMS HAVE TO HUNT THE PERSON DOWN. AND THE WINNER IS THE ONE WHO SHOOTS HIM AND THE LOSING TEAM HAS TO LEAVE THE ISLAND. And you want to know why kids are shooting kids. We have no family structure/ where parents are no longer involved with their kids. EXAMPLE COLUMBINE The kids where building bombs in the house HOW DOES A PARENT NOT KNOW THAT!! We no longer disciplne our kids, we have to talk to them and give them a lollipop. And we tell them its not little johnnies fault it must be the other person. When you kid is good you give him a hug but when little johnnie is bad and disrespects his elders he should get a boot in the ass.

    January 11, 2013 at 5:24 am |
  6. Emily

    Stephen, if you don't have the answers, that is fine, but don't bash people who may understand God's purpose and the effects of sin in this world. Sine the sin of Adam and Eve that closed the gates of Heaven we have been promised, sickness, pain and death of our bodies on this earth. Why are we surprised when these things happen? Death is going to occur to all of us at some point. The manner in which it happens is sometimes unfathomable to our human senses, but it is no surprise. Now, I am not saying people should respond in illogical ways and in ways that lack compassion, but to pump an article out of your own frustrations is not helpful, either. Re-evaluate your own beliefs and attempt to see that others may not need to shake their hands at God and ask questions. God is a God of Truth, Love and Justice all at the same time. We are the ones that messed up our relationship on this earth with God. So, to succinctly put it, God has an active will and a permissive will. He permits these things for our own good, and if you can't understand that, maybe you need to study Salvation History a little more deeply.

    January 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • sjajr

      Its people like you that are pushing me more and more to athism. Keep up the good work.

      January 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  7. Young

    There are not words to explain it. We can only hope to find comfort in God

    January 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  8. Ward Phelps

    To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting. Not really, it is more insane to blame an inanimate object than the people. Our society is dead in this country. We no longer have values or families that can project them. Our cities are sin pits from hell. People only looking at the here and now are the problem. Those with higher incomes, try to project higher ideals and fail. Incidents like this are only going to get worse. But you are right in that God is not the reference or should I say he is the source. Only 1/3 of his children will be saved. Being in the last days Satan is trying his best and succeeding at taking the other 2/3s. So it is inevitable that the innocent will perish in this life and the sinners will more or less prevail in the last days. Which is now? I blame the story hungry press for shoving into the faces of all to see, graphically showing the violence and its aftermath. People who were involved need our love and understanding on a broad scale, not in their faces. Going after legal gun owners will make the criminals very happy. Remember this is the end of days, not the beginning of mankind. You would be better off asking people to ensure their soul is ready for this life to end, than to save it through questionable means.

    January 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  9. Dean

    Under armed threat, should society consult religious scholars or security professionals?

    January 10, 2013 at 3:09 am |
  10. Alquimia

    Not in the same league as having your child killed, but when my house was flooded and we lost most of our possessions, a "friend" whose house did not flood said to me: "we were spared because we are Christians and prayed a lot". Comments like these are offensive and insensitive.

    January 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Itsmmmeee

      Alquimia.....I am a Christian and I am sorry for that persons words. Awful. Jesus said we will have trials and I experience them frequently.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Saraswati

      Wow – my first reaction would be to try to avoid this person. But I have a short attention span, which is pretty much the same thing as ready forgiveness. 🙂

      January 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Young

      I am sorry for your loss and their response.

      January 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Johnny C

      That's about as un-Christian a response that can be imagined.

      January 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  11. diablo135

    So instead of naming this article, "Six Things I don't want to hear..." the author should just name this, " Another article bashing religion and why you should listen to me instead"

    January 7, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  12. Frank Mondana

    Can I add another?
    "My son or daughter survived because God was with him/her."

    I guess he was taking a dump when the other kids were killed...

    January 7, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  13. stg609

    wrong views kill people. right views save people. if you don't know than don't know

    January 7, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  14. tutuvabene

    I guess there will need to be another chapter in Emily Post's "Etiquette" to cover this.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  15. Z

    #7 – Don't use tragedies as political springboards

    January 7, 2013 at 5:43 am |
  16. Nick

    "Guns don't kill people, people kill people, but people WITH guns, damn dude, watch out."

    January 7, 2013 at 2:37 am |
  17. Michaele

    There are no words I could possibly express to describe the amount of sadness I have in my soul for the state of our human existence right now. These injustices that we are experiencing is the violence and violations that man has done against man for hundred and thousands of years. Why do we except nuclear bombs that can ultimately destroy the human race that we say is for our protection, constant promotion of violence as entertainment, blatant worship of anything and everything furthest from our very source of creation. We have created a generation of human beings that have no regard for human life. Look at our media and what they are promoting. We reward bad behavior and raise it up to celebrity status. We except combating people against one other as entertainment and regard that as common human behavior. All it's doing is making those who are exploiting the few richer on our expense. They are laughing at us! Our media is dehumanizing the human image thus taking any value out of human life. Add a young trouble youth with fatherless or motherless house holds and impressionable minds needing love and guidance. Lack of compassion, love and connection in a child's mind opens them to search for acceptance in the darkest of places. This is not about God's judgement. Our divine creation want all of his children to prosper, live freely, be compassionate to our fellow beings. Even love thy enemy! But the world is promoting violence, oppression, and complete control of our very beings. We know longer even possess the ownership of our own personal information. Wake up human race! We have created all of this! Start taking responsibility and stop allowing our leaders, medias, and schools to raise the future children of our world. Unplug from the insanity you keep feeding. You are making the rich richer for your very demise! Negativity only has the power to grow if you feed it! Wake up! This is not God's doing, this is about what we have excepted as common practice! How come the only news we hear on TV is bad news. There are so many doing good! I have had my TV off for 3 months!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Finnoula

      Very aptly put, Michaele. Your words ring true and are obviously deeply felt. I wish there were more people like you in the world. Let me rephrase that: I know there ARE more people like you in the world, but not enough speak out or take to the front lines of activism. We're just working on holding our lives together. Keep on expressing.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • Troy

      I disagree. Parents are the problem. Bad stories with evil people have been around for a long time, i.e the bible. If anything, you should unplug your computer and unplug from your bible.

      January 7, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  18. Michael

    If you truely believe in that" God "you speak of and that "bible" then it would show true "wisdom" to reflect on The "Lord" placing a "weapon" into the hands of Moses to defeat his" enemies" . Did the" Knights Templar" have guns? Did the most evil of all men before 1800AD have guns? The Roman soldiers slaughtered 40,000 British in one battle, NO GUNS Wake up Stephen, since Cain slew Able, it has always been so ,People kill people

    January 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Saraswati

      People with guns kill more people. People with bombs kill even more. People with nuclear weapons kill yet more.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  19. Ryan Young

    If I can't have the weapons to protect myself from murderous phychopaths I want the same infantry that the president has.
    I'm 15 and this is simple logic to me.
    So I suppose every soldier that fought for this country was evil because he used a weapon. He did what was necessary for the freedoms you so ignorantly misuse. Please, for the sake of humanity and this great nation, do not give in to the corrupt politics Barrack Obama has forged. Are you going to call me heartless for saying such things after such a massacre of innocence? Probably. But that doesn't matter because I know that I and many other likeminded people in this world would have taking down the Connetecuit school shooter. The people aren't as evil as you presume, so stop siding with every pro-government liberal, and please... just think.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Chris

      If you are actually 15 you are wise beyond your years.
      Well written.

      January 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  20. maria

    Not words to express the anguish and pain this parents are feeling right now ,let the politics talk about baloney the whole thing became politics ,this is about pain ,sorrow and tears .......

    January 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.